Referred to by people as the ‘Gateway of the Gods’, according to Hindu mythology, it is one of the seven holiest places (sapta-puris) and the getaway to four of the most sacred pilgrimages of India – Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, together known as the Chardham! Read up about Haridwar the place according to legends, where the Gods are believed to have left their footprints.

Situated on the banks of the River Ganges, Haridwar is a famous pilgrimage hub located in Uttar Pradesh at a distance of 214 km from Delhi, at a height of almost 300 meters above sea level. A place shrouded in ancient Indian mythology and history, this holy city at the foothills of the Shivalik Ranges is one that attracts millions of devotees for its unique Kumbh mela and Ardh Kumbh mela.

A city as old as Varanasi, it has been glorified in ancient epics as Mokshadwar, Mayapuri, and Gangadwar. Legends have it that the holiest of all rivers, the Ganga, which flows through this sacred city has actually been consecrated by the powerful Trinity of Hindu mythology, Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara.

A renowned pilgrimage site of northIndia, some of its must visit attractions include the Har-Ki-Pauri that literally translates to “the footstep of God”. This is said to be the exact spot theGangesleaves the mountains for the plains. It is also known to be the spot Lord Vishnu’s footprint is said to be embedied on a stone. Devout Hindus believe a dip in these holy waters of theGangesis considered as salvation of the soul and will relieve one from the cycle of birth and rebirth.

Every evening the temple priests perform the Ganga Aarti i.e. a ceremony of worshiping the river, a soulful experience where priests take part in intricate rituals, and diyas are set to drift along the river.

Just 500 m from Har ki Pauri is the Bhimgoda Tank, named after one of the five Pandava brothers, Bhima. According to a legend, this tank came into being when Bhima banged the ground with his knee whilst journeying to Haridwar.

Situated on the eastern banks of the river Ganges, a temple built in 1929 by Suchat Singh, the former king of Kashmir, dedicated to the Goddess Chandi is another must visit. 3 km from this temple is Chandi Ghat Another popular temple is theMansaDeviTemple, situated atop Bilwa Parwat, a popular attraction amongst tourists as this goddess is said to grant wishes. Legend has it that this is the spot the heart and navel of goddess Sati had fallen. Another attraction is the amazing view of the valleys below, which one gets while trying the cable cars here.

A replica of the Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu & Kashmir, the Vaishno Devi temple here is also known for its share of tourists visiting important pilgrim sites. And last but not the least, unlike other temples here, Pawan Dham is a modern temple made completely out of glass, the Bharat Mata Temple, and more.

While temples here are the main attraction, do try the Neel Dhara Pakshi Vihar, a paradise for bird watchers, for this sanctuary situated on the main River Ganges at the Bhimgoda barrage is home to many a migratory bird during the winters. Other sanctuaries tourists can enjoy a bit further away from Haridwar include the Chila Wildlife Sanctuary, which is part of theRajajiNational Park, where tourists if lucky can view tigers, jungle cats, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, barking deer and more.

Being the gateway to other pilgrim destinations, devotees can also visit the many temples near by which are worth a visit, such as Daksh Mahadev Temple, an ancient shrine constructed in 810 AD. According to mythology, it is said when King Daksha Prajapati, Sati’s father performed a yagya at this place, he did not invite Lord Shiva. Insulted Sati (Lord Shiva’s first wife) threw herself in the yagya kund and burnt herself.

Situated along the Haridwar – Rishikesh road, is the Sapt Rishi Ashram, named after the seven sages- Kashyap, Vashit, Atri, Vishwamitra, Jaindayani, Bhardwaj and Gautam ashram who meditated here. According to legend the Ganga split into seven channels around each Rishi not wanting to disturb them whilst they were meditating!

Haridwar is also famous for its Gurukul Kangri University,  one ofIndia’s most esteemed universities, noted for the traditional system of education students receive here.

But temples are not the only attraction here, Piran Kaliar is known for its ancient tombs. The tomb of Shabir Shahib, a famous Dargah is also visited by tourists coming from all over the world. The URS festival  a popular festival is celebrated here every year.

Other great getaways include Rishikesh, 24 kms from here a great place for its white water rafting; and the mesmerizing destinations of Mussorie about 89 kms from here or Dehradun 54 kms away.

A pilgrim destination, one can pick up some interesting souvenirs from here such as intricately carved stone idols, Rudraksh, beads, kitchen set toys made from stone,  brass and copper utensils etc.

If you’re looking at adding a bit of religion and mythology to your holiday, this destination with a magical aura around it is definitely one that you should consider, a favorite amongst tourists, pilgrims and devotees.

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